Are you in your organization to do something, or are you in your organization for something to do? If the answer is “to do something”, what is it that you want to do? On a piece of paper, write at the top “What I want to accomplish.” Now make a list of all the things that you want to achieve in your organization. For each item, ask yourself, “Why do I want this?” Keep asking why until you run out of reasons. By doing this exercise, you’re likely to discover those few idealized ends for which you strive.
Here are some additional questions that you can use in clarifying your purpose:
How would I like to change the world for myself and my organization?
How do I want to be remembered?
If I could invent the future, what future would I invent for myself and my organization?
What mission in life absolutely obsesses me?
What’s my dream about work?
What’s my most distinctive skill or talent?
What’s my burning passion?
What work do I find absorbing, involving, and enthralling?
What will happen in ten years if I remain absorbed, involved, and enthralled in that work?
What does my ideal organization look like?
What’s my personal agenda? What do I want to prove?
Now that you have a list of what you want to do and why you want to do it, do you see any patterns in the “whys?”
Develop a statement of purpose. The statement of purpose should represent why you do the things you do. It is not about what, when, where, or how you do your work, but about why. Once you understand your purpose, the what, when, where, and how of your work can and will change over time, but the why will remain the same.
Your purpose should be short and easy to remember, and it should serve as a guide to your daily behavior.
My purpose is to change your mind about the value of partnering with others to build healthy, responsible organizations where everyone can thrive.
Adapted from Kouzes & Posner (2007) The Leadership Challenge